Labor Party head Amir Peretz said Wednesday that he won’t run for the Knesset in Israel's upcoming March 23 election.
Peretz, who serves as economy and industry minister, said he "won’t serve in the next Knesset but will continue to work for the public.”
The Labor party’s election committee will now elect Peretz’s successor to lead the party. The vote for party leader has been set for January 24 and the primary election for choosing Labor's Knesset slate for February 1.
Labor lawmaker Merav Michaeli, currently the one vying for party leadership, thanked Peretz for his service. She added that the time has come save the party and to hold primaries.
The chairman of the Hayisraelim party, (Hebrew for The Israelis) and Tel Aviv mayor, Ron Huldai, responded to Peretz's announcement, saying he intends to offer the Labor Party to join him after the primaries "to build a strong and valuable alternative to the current government."
Sources close to Peretz say they are hoping that a new candidate will breathe new life into Labor whose progenitor formed the state of Israel, and is now lingering in the polls well below the 3.25-electoral threshold for entering the Knesset.
In December, Peretz announced his intention to run for the presidency. Israel’s current President Reuven Rivlin's seven-year term will end on July 27, 2021.
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Despite repeated campaign pledges not to do so, Peretz joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unity government in May. The move led the already troubled party to lose many of its remaining supporters.
So far, apart from Michaeli, the only other name that has come up for the top position is that of retired general Amos Yadlin, who some senior party members hope will also be a candidate.